Indexed on: 01 May '08Published on: 01 May '08Published in: PloS one
Long term retention of patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in Africa's rapidly expanding programmes is said to be 60% at 2 years. Many reports from African ART programmes make little mention of patients who are transferred out to another facility, yet Malawi's national figures show a transfer out of 9%. There is no published information about what happens to patients who transfer-out, but this is important because if they transfer-in and stay alive in these other facilities then national retention figures will be better than previously reported.Of all patients started on ART over a three year period in Mzuzu Central Hospital, North Region, Malawi, those who transferred out were identified from the ART register and master cards. Clinic staff attempted to trace these patients to determine whether they had transferred in to a new ART facility and their outcome status. There were 805 patients (19% of the total cohort) who transferred out, of whom 737 (92%) were traced as having transferred in to a new ART facility, with a median time of 1.3 months between transferring-out and transferring-in. Survival probability was superior and deaths were lower in the transfer-out patients compared with those who did not transfer.In Mzuzu Central Hospital, patients who transfer-out constitute a large proportion of patients not retained on ART at their original clinic of registration. Good documentation of transfer-outs and transfer-ins are needed to keep track of national outcomes. Furthermore, the current practice of regarding transfer-outs as being double counted in national cohorts and subtracting this number from the total national registrations to get the number of new patients started on ART is correct.